Letter to the editor

As a recipient of my regular “Eye of the Xenos” column in the English edition of Kathimerini, you will be aware that I have been contributing to Kathimerini since January 2018.

I was initially invited to do so by the Editor, who had read my “Letter from Greece” in The Irish Times and my book Greece Through Irish Eyes and believed that I could write a similar column for Kathimerini.

I was honored to be invited in this way and since then I have gladly contributed a series of “Xenos” observations on literature, history, the migrant/refugee crisis and on culture generally.

However, when I offered a column relating to the development of a luxury tourist resort in Corfu (where I live) which, in my own opinion and in the view of the vast majority of Corfiots, would be detrimental to the environment of the headland of Erimitis (“the Hermit”) in the north-east of the island, the column was rejected on the grounds that it was critical of the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and of two specific government ministers.

I was told that this was unacceptable as it took “a deeply political position” and that outside (i.e. non-Greek) contributors should write on “academic, historical, cultural” topics, not on “internal politics.”

I wrote this in advance of the visit to Erimitis by Mr Mitsotakis, at which he formally endorsed the development project and in the course of which he suggested that the attraction of foreign investment in Greece, and the development of projects such as that planned for Erimitis, were of greater importance than the preservation of pristine environments.

In the light of these comments I rewrote the column, in the form of an “open letter” to Mr Mitsotakis, but this was again rejected by Kathimerini.

As a permanent, full-time resident of Corfu (paying property tax)(, and as Director of the Durrell Library/School of Corfu, with close ties to institutions such as the Society of Corfiot Studies and the Ionian University, I feel entitled to express opinions on issues which affect the well-being – including the cultural well-being – of the island, regardless of what passport I may hold.

I cannot regard my previous columns, over the past 30 months, as devoid of political content: writing about Greek-Turkish relations (especially in relation to the refugee crisis), Greece's position in the Balkans (and the Macedonian issue in particular) and on Greek cultural, literary and political history (for example, my most recent column on the issue of Greece's borders) has inevitably involved reference to “internal politics.”

Having written all my life extensively on the relationship of culture to politics, I cannot accept that the two can be of necessity separated.

As this view is not shared by the editorship of Kathimerini I have to say, with deepest regret, that I will no longer contribute “Eye of the Xenos” to this fine newspaper.

I will, of course, continue to submit my “Letter from Greece” to the foreign pages of The Irish Times and I hope you continue to find something of value in them.


Richard Pine

Editor replies

Ιn my answer to you a few weeks ago, Ι had noted that what we are trying to do at Kathimerini English Edition is to enrich the publication with pieces about history, society, culture, medicine, Greek-Turkish relations, the Balkans, etc, not internal politics. That is for the Greek Kathimerini and your piece specifically dealt about a domestic political issue.

I further noted that if you wanted to make the general point that a local development project you care about a lot might not be right for the environment, that would be perfectly fine. But instead you took a deeply political position, with specifics about named government members, etc.

I cannot think of a more open Greek newspaper and one that publishes opposing views than Kathimerini.

But as I had mentioned, outside contributors to the English edition – which is read by foreign readers – write about issues from an academic, historical, scientific or diplomatic angle. They do not engage in Greek domestic party politics.

Tom Ellis

Kathimerini English Edition

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